Two U.S. government satellites were targeted by hackers a number of times between 2007 and 2008, a congressional commission has revealed. In a draft version of its 2011 report, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has stated that over a period of a year, one Landsat-7 and one Terra-AM1 satellite were attacked a total of four times through a ground station in Norway. While the satellites are used solely for scientific research and imaging, the report states that the hackers took total control of both, and goes on to suggest that should more sensitive targets like GPS or spy satellites be compromised this could be a far greater problem.
Neither satellite was damaged in the attacks, but the potential for this to happen has obviously given the commission cause for concern. The report doesn't go as far as directly accusing the Chinese government but does conclude that the attacks are consistent with Chinese Military writings which advocate attacks on an enemy technology — and that such attacks often come from Chinese IP adresses. With NASA announcing plans to use laser-based communications to increase bandwidth, we have to hope that the same investment is going into security of the system.
Image credit: NASA